Taxidermy Art, from Counterculture to Pop Culture

October 2014 marked the 10 year anniversary of the birth of a genre of pop-surrealist art dubbed "Rogue Taxidermy". The genre was the brainchild of Sarina Brewer and cohorts Scott Bibus & Robert Marbury. Together they spearheaded an art movement which has continued to gain momentum exponentially. Since its inception the genre has proven to be as controversial as it is contagious. Images of this unique variety of work now saturate every corner of the internet and it has inspired a revolution. The introduction of Rogue Taxidermy created a trend in the art world that changed the perception and assumptions about taxidermy, not only in galleries, but also in contemporary aesthetics. Its presence in galleries has carried over into popular culture, as attested to by the countless window displays and home decor magazines featuring decorative objects that mimic taxidermy. The efforts of the group laid the foundation for what has exploded into a global phenomenon and Sarina Brewer is recognized as the key figure whose work jump-started the popularity of Rogue Taxidermy in the United States.


Rogue Taxidermy is a genre of mainstream art which is often incorrectly categorized as an offshoot of traditional taxidermy. Neither the term nor the genre emerged from the world of traditional taxidermy. The genre was borne from forms of fine art that utilize the various elements of traditional taxidermy. The term as defined by the founders of the Rogue Taxidermy art movement, who invented the term, is "A genre of pop-surrealist art characterized by mixed media sculptures containing conventional taxidermy materials that are used in an unconventional manner".

Unfortunately the term Rogue Taxidermy has become bastardized in recent years and is used in the wrong context on a regular basis due to mainstream media focusng their attention on the sensationalistic aspect of  "making art of dead animals", thus largely ignoring artists within the genre creating work with synthetic taxidermy related materials. There is a pervasive misconception that Rogue Taxidermy is merely fictional hybrid animals (eg; jackalopes, winged mice, etc.,) and anthropomorphic animal mounts (eg; clothed animals partaking in human activities, such as those popularized by Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter) This notion is incorrect. Understanding what a taxidermy mount is made out of is absolutely fundamental to understanding the definition of Rogue Taxidermy given above. A taxidermy mount is comprised of many more materials than meets the eye. Animal hide is the obvious component, however some other examples of "taxidermy related materials" include faux fur, bones, mummified remains, and prefabricated foam taxidermy mannequins. For a sculpture to qualify as Rogue Taxidermy its main component must be some sort of 'taxidermy related material', however it can used in conjunction with other materials that are not taxidermy related. Artists working within the genre of Rogue Taxidermy create sculptures using all varieties of materials; glass, metal, paper, ceramics, stone, found objects, etc. They then combine these materials with elements borrowed from the world of conventional taxidermy. The end result doesn't need to be reminiscent of an animal, it can be completely abstract and doesn't need to contain organic animal materials. A sculpture constructed entirely from synthetic components can constitute Rogue Taxidermy. Therefore a Jackalope can be considered Rogue Taxidermy because "taxidermy related materials" are being presented in an unconventional manner, however  Rogue Taxidermy is not simply defined as fictional hybrid taxidermied animals as much of the current internet hype leads people to believe.


The History of Rogue Taxidermy

The Rogue Taxidermy art movement began in Minneapolis Minnesota. It is here that both the phrase was coined and the genre conceived. In 2002 a Minneapolis based artist and classical taxidermist named Scott Bibus discovered the unusual taxidermy sculptures of Sarina Brewer on the internet. Upon learning she was also based in Minneapolis the two arranged a meeting to discuss their respective work. Soon thereafter Bibus introduced Brewer to local artist Robert Marbury who fashioned creatures from recycled stuffed toys, faux fur, and urethane taxidermy mannequins. The styles and themes these three artists were working with had nothing to do with one another, however upon seeing Marbury's work Brewer realized their work all subtlety shared one attribute; they all utilized taxidermy related materials in some fashion. This concept is the foundation of the genre and how it would later be defined.

Upon this realization Brewer approached Marbury with her observation. She suggested the trio put together a group show and tie together their three styles using taxidermy related materials as the common denominator. Marbury liked the proposal and soon thereafter orchestrated their inaugural exhibition. They presented their three styles as a singular category of work and titled the show "Rogue Taxidermy". It was held on October 15th 2004 at a neighborhood gallery in North East Minneapolis called Creative Electric Studios.

The groundbreaking exhibition was an immense success. It received generous press, including the front page of the New York Times art section. Response to the work was overwhelming and there was so much interest within the art community that shortly thereafter the trio decided to form an artist collective built around their style of work. Robert Marbury set up a website and the they began gathering artists working within the same vein to unite under the umbrella of Rogue Taxidermy. The work caught on like wildfire, making Rogue Taxidermy a household name virtually overnight. The art movement that followed served as the catalyst for the renaissance taxidermy related decorative objects are currently experiencing. Due to the group's efforts the genre of Rogue Taxidermy is now recognized by the mainstream art world as a category of Low Brow/Pop Surrealism.

The phrase "Rogue Taxidermy" was coined by the trio in 2004. The term was conceived of by Sarina Brewer and introduced into global vernacular by Scott Bibus who used it to decribe their work in an interview for a news article that same year. Use of the term has not been documented anywhere prior to their inaugural exhibition.

The Definition of Rogue Taxidermy